Spotlight on... Penn researchers highlight role of CAP2 gene in cardiac arrest; Suicide gene therapy tested for prostate cancer; Joslin scientists ID protein for insulin production; and more...

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania say they have identified new links between the CAP2 gene and heart disease. Their work has spotlighted the role that CAP2 plays in regulating the way the heart contracts in a rhythmic fashion. By knocking out the gene in mice, the researchers say they observed that the rodents typically died quickly of cardiac arrest. "This finding merits further study to see how exactly CAP2 regulates conduction," says Jeffrey Field, a professor of systems pharmacology and translational therapeutics. "While we don't understand how, this gene definitely has a role in controlling conduction." Release

> Houston Methodist investigators have tested a suicide gene therapy that they say can alter prostate cancer cells in way that signals an attack by the immune system, offering a one-two punch combined with radiation. "We strategically used an adenovirus, similar to the one that causes the common cold, to carry the therapy agent--a herpes virus gene that produces the enzyme thymidine kinase, or TK--directly into the tumor cells," said Dr. E. Brian Butler, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Houston Methodist and senior author on the JRO paper. "Once the herpes virus gene was delivered and it started manufacturing TK, we gave patients a commonly used anti-herpes drug, valacyclovir. The combination attacked the herpes DNA, and the TK-producing tumor cells self-destructed, which is why the procedure is called 'suicide gene therapy.'" Release

> Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center have identified a protein produced in the liver that can spur the growth of insulin-producing pancreatic cells. Release

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